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MDN.ORG Mo. Digital News Missouri Digital News MDN.ORG: Mo. Digital News MDN.ORG: Missouri Digital News
Lobbyist Money Help  

Holden authorizes withholding $158 million to fix shortfall

February 27, 2003
By: Heather J. Carlson
State Capital Bureau

JEFFERSON CITY - After publicly threatening education budget cuts if he did not get his way from the legislature, Gov. Bob Holden chose to make his final budget withholdings in private, at the end of the day as state offices were being closed.

The $158 million in withholdings cover education, higher education and a variety of other state programs.

Holden had asked the legislature to approve tobacco bonds to patch the state's budget shortfall. After much negotiation, Republicans offered a revenue bond plan that still left the state about $158 million short.

The new withholdings came just one day after the governor signed behind closed doors the bond issue bill that avoided even deeper cuts in the remaining four months of the current fiscal year. The bill authorized the sale of $150 million in general revenue bonds to help cover the state's projected $400 million budget deficit.

To fill the remaining budget gap, the governor approved withholding $83.2 million from education and $75.2 million from state agencies across the board. He also authorized spending $12.8 million in one-time monies to help fund Medicaid.

The withholdings mean the University of Missouri system will lose $9.57 million and Columbia Public Schools will lose $1.416 million this year.

State Budget Director Linda Luebbering said the governor made the cuts reluctantly.

"Although we felt like we had done about as much withholding as was fiscally responsible, we needed to go back and look for more and we just did," she said.

But John Hancock, executive chairman of the state's Republican Party, says the governor was avoiding responsibility for the cuts by doing them in such a quiet manner.

"Gov. Holden has politicized the budget every step of the way," Hancock said. "Our legislative leadership offered him a way out without having to cut education."

The state departments taking the biggest budget hits include the Office of Administration, Social Services, Corrections and Education. Approximately $14.2 million will be withheld from administration, $10.9 million from Social Services, $10.9 million from Corrections and $6 million from Education.

Luebbering said she hopes this will be the last round of budget cuts this year. But, with the possibility of war with Iraq looming, she said deeper cuts may be needed.

"If it gets any worse, we'll be back," she said.